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hristmas is not just a date on the calendar. It is the celebration of the event that set Heaven to singing, an event that gave the stars of the night sky a new brilliance. The Hebrew prophets believed that God had made the world. But all through the centuries they seem to have been saying, “I wish that God would become personal.” And through the centuries God gave them the assurance that He would. This is precisely what He did that first Christmas night. He became personal in Bethlehem. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). At a specific time and at a specific place a specific person was born—and that Person was God of very God, the Lord Jesus Christ. What a wonderful and glorious hope we have because of that first Christmas!

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The King Is Promised

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ight hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah declared: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light� (Isaiah 9:2). It was the promise of the coming of Christ and the light that was to dawn upon the world. It heralded the entrance of God into human history. It promised Heaven descending to earth. It was as though a trumpeter had taken his stand upon the turrets of time and announced to a despairing, hopeless, and frustrated world the coming of the Prince of Peace.

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U n t o Us

d The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined. For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:2, 6–7

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O C om e , O C om e , E m m a n u e l

a O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here Disperse the gloomy clouds of night And death’s dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. O come, Thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heavenly home; Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel. Latin, 12th century

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The Angelic Announcement to Mary Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

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Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. N ow indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26–38

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ne evening in Jerusalem I looked out my hotel window and saw the lights of Bethlehem in the distance. For a long time I stood there and meditated on the events that had taken place over 2,000 years ago and which have transformed and changed our world.

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I thought about the angel Gabriel. He came to Mary, who was no more than a teenager, and said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:30–31). At first Mary was fearful and deeply disturbed. Here she was, a virgin, engaged to a godly man by the name of Joseph, yet she was to be made pregnant supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. People would talk, shame could be attached to it, and Joseph might even reject her. But Mary by faith said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). One of the greatest demonstrations of faith in all the Bible was Mary’s answer to the angel, accepting God’s will for her life—no matter the cost.

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God’s Blessing

of

Assurance to J oseph

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Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be ful­filled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife . . . Matthew 1:18–24

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n the Scriptures we are given just a little glimpse of Mary and Joseph before Jesus was born. They lived in the hill country of Galilee. Joseph was a religious man, and Mary gives every evidence of a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, even though she was just a teenager. Joseph was contracted to marry Mary, and in that time, being engaged was almost as strong a commitment as being married. I think we give too little attention to Joseph. He is called “a just man” (Matthew 1:19), which means he obeyed the will of God. It also includes the connotation of sympathy and kindness. It indicated his devotion both to God and to Mary. Then Mary was found to be with child. Put yourself in Joseph’s place. Imagine his thoughts, his suspicions, about the girl to whom he was engaged. According to the ancient law, Mary should have been put to death. But Joseph did not want to have

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any part of that kind of punishment, so he decided to break the engagement privately. While he was thinking about these things, God’s angel appeared to him in a dream to give the prospective bridegroom an explanation of the situation. “Joseph, son of David,” said the angel, “do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). What faith it took on Joseph’s part to believe that message and to trust! He put away his suspicions. He believed God and was married to Mary. Like Mary, he said, “Yes, Lord, regardless!”

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God's Blessings of Christmas